Basics of Troubleshooting – What you need to know before you ask

In any given profession there will always be a time where something goes wrong, some tool malfunction, or something that you’ve used every day seems to act differently. In today’s world, most of the time the problem is computer related. We’ve come to depend on these devices and their functionalities, whether it’s a laptop, cellphone, or server service.  It often causes frustration and loss of productivity when they fail.

What to do when everything goes wrong?

When this happens what’s the first thing you do? Call IT? Call a friend? Throw it away? This is the first step to really learning and understanding the tools we use every day. What do we do when it goes wrong? In most cases the best thing to do is the good ol’ standby…reboot. If it’s electronic and has an operating system running on it there’s a good chance that forcing a reboot will help the issue. If not, then you need to look further.

Determine the issue

Since the reboot did not work, think about the issue being experienced. Is it application related – does another program/app work? Is it network related – does the device itself work but you can’t access the web or any of your services? Is it hardware related – does the device seem “stuck”? Is it working but you can’t launch any applications? Drilling down into the issue and determining what’s happening rather than just that something happened is key. Once you have narrowed down the issue to one of the general buckets (application/network/hardware/operating system) it will allow you to move onto the next phase of the troubleshooting process.


The next step would be to try to use a search engine to try to troubleshoot, if available. There is a wealth of knowledge on the web and most likely the issue you are facing will have been documented already. The trick to troubleshooting on the web is to describe the issue accurately. For example, if you have an error message on your computer with an error number. Don’t just search for the error number, rather search for the entire message that’s displayed as well as the name of the application you were trying to use and the operating system running. It seems like a lot to type into a search bar but the more you have describing the issue, the more likely you are to find exactly what you are looking for in the first page of results.

After all of this you may still have the issue and need to call into IT or someone else knowledgeable on the equipment. It is very important that you articulate to that individual what is happening just as you described in the search online. The more information you have up front, the better your chances are to get resolution from the technical representative you are working with. Make sure to describe what you were doing when the problem occurred, or what you were attempting to do, and what happened. However, please try not to get too upset when they ask you to reboot.

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